For nearly a year, the Bethel Fire and EMT Department has been raising money to buy a new ambulance. Everything from t-shirts to bratwurst to Bingo nights have been sold to fund the effort. This week, the campaign received a boost: $25,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation. The influx means that the Fire Department has almost reached its goal.
Dependable emergency care requires dependable equipment. Right now Bethel doesn’t have that, and EMTs do what they must to respond to calls.
“You know, getting quick repairs done by mechanics in the middle of the night,” said Fire Chief Bill Howell, “or having to use one ambulance to push the other one out because it won’t start.”
Inside the garage of the Bethel Fire Department, gleaming red fire trucks sit alongside two white ambulances. One of the ambulances is 18 years old; the other is 14. Howell says that the industry standard is to replace these vehicles after less than 10 years, which in Bethel is critical. Being off the road system, there’s no one to call for backup if one breaks down, which has been happening more and more often.
“They’re old and they’ve been beat up on Bethel roads. They don’t get to warm up. They get started and have to respond immediately,” Howell explained.
Earlier this year, the ambulances were malfunctioning so frequently that EMTs were using a red pickup truck to respond to calls. The Department mobilized last August, committing to raising $255,000 to bring a new ambulance to Bethel. And they went all in.
“Pretty much no idea was shunned,” said Howell. “We knew we had a big task ahead of us.”
First there was a Korean food truck from Casa Restaurant that raised money for the endeavor. Then, the department sold t-shirts.
“Hundreds and hundreds of t-shirts,” said Howell. “There was red and blue and purple.”
The department held thrift sales, and they sold more food.
“Thousands of hotdogs and brats. We sponsored a volleyball tournament,” said Howell, laughing.
One EMT Fire Fighter sold handmade pottery. The VFW Women’s Auxiliary donated proceeds from an entire Bingo night, and the donations kept coming. Businesses, nonprofits, foundations, and community members all pitched in, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to get Bethel a new ambulance.
“It’s been a real kind of dog pile of fundraising efforts. Just getting there any way we can,” stated Howell.
Howell says that all those donations, t-shirts, and hot dogs have pulled the people of Bethel…